Five Macedonian foods to remind you about Balkan flavors

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Macedonian is a balance of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours. After being part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years, Macedonian food has blended the worldly flavours with their fresh and local ingredients. The end result is flavorful and fresh. What are the five items you need to try while you are in Macedonia?

1. Tavce Gravce

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Tavce Gravce, a dish of beans in a clay pot, is often called the national dish of North Macedonia. The direct translation is “beans on a tavla.” This is a combination of spices zesty peppers and flavorful aromatics that first start with white beans. These can be navy, cannellini beans, butter or great northern beans.

Tavce Gravce can be eaten with sausages or ribs inside the dish, or cheese on the side. It is always served up with bread. Be sure to save some bread after you finish your bowl so that you can scoop up the flavorful sauce.

2. Pastrmajlija

Pastrmajlija is a type of bread pie, that is a bit like a pizza bread or flatbread, but without the sauce.

The bread dough is flattened out into long, cylinder-like ovals. Then cubes of seasoned, salted and smoked lamb or pork are distributed all over the dough before it is baked. Often, they will crack an egg and cook it sunny side up.

3. Sarma

Sarma, which is a Macedonian cabbage roll, can be served hot or cold. The inside of the rolls uses rice or bulgar and some minced meat. Using fermented cabbage leaves that have been picked for a few months, they are rolled and steamed before being served.

In the summer, they will pickle grapevine leaves and stuff the inside with rice and goat or sheep’s milk sour cream.

Sarma can be eaten as an appetizer or as part of the main course.

4. Polneti piperki

Polneti piperki are Macedonian stuffed peppers. Red or green peppers are stuffed with a mixture of rice, herbs and minced meat. They top it off with the pepper top or a half potato. They are baked until the outsides of the peppers are smokey and flavorful.

5. Ajvar

When visiting North Macedonia, clear jars of Ajvar are on every restaurant table. Ajvar is both a spread and a dip. It can be eaten when enjoying a libation or as an appetizer.

Ajvar is made with roasted peppers. After they are mashed, they are salted and cooked in oil for a lengthy period of time. This releases all of the flavours of the pepper. The final result is tangy and tasty.